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phil-tuttlePhil Tuttle: Welcome to my blog! For those of you new to the site, I am the President of Walk Thru the Bible, an organization based in Atlanta, GA, dedicated to igniting a passion for God's Word—here in the U.S. and throughout the world. In this blog you'll find a crazy blend of random thoughts, bizarre humor, and even an occasional deep insight.

Please jump into the discussion because, as we all know, a conversation is way more fun than a monologue.


 

Next Stop: Nicaragua

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I don't want to annoy you with so many updates and blogs that you start ignoring my communication. But the truth is, I very much need your prayers the next few days, and I'm too dependent not to ask for your help.

It's Sunday night and I'm on Delta flight 369 heading to Managua, Nicaragua.

This is going to be a short trip so you'll have to pray really fast! I'll be in Nicaragua less than 60 hours, but my time there will be full and strategic.

2015-02-15 image-2Thanks to the wonderful partnership between our Central American regional director, Alejandro Oviedo, Harborside Christian Church in Florida, and Charley and Mary Anne Babcock, I'm once again heading to Managua to speak at their conference for over 250 pastors and their spouses.

My previous visits to this gathering have been amazing. Such eager, grateful students of God's Word. For many of these men and women, this is their only opportunity for training each year. What an honor to encourage and equip these dear brothers and sisters!

This week is especially strategic as I'll be test teaching Chosen, our new course on the life of Mary. The response to this material in both India and the U.S. has been encouraging, but this will be our first time to present this course in a predominantly Catholic culture.

We are praying that this new family of resources will build bridges rather than walls between Protestants and both Catholic and Orthodox believers.

The feedback we receive will be crucial as we prepare to put this new course in the hands of all 14 of our regional directors at our Global Consultation in Kenya this April.

Please pray for responsive hearts, constructive criticism, and passion to share this material all over Central America.

Please also ask God to shrink my own ego and deliver me from the pride of authorship that can so easily derail true creative collaboration.

I'll let you know how God answers your prayers and try to send a few photos so you can picture the people you're interceding for.

Thank you so much for living this adventure with me through the miracle of prayer.

~Phil

Final India Update

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I've lived a lot of life since coming home from India two weeks ago, but the memories are still vivid. Reading all your encouraging comments and heartfelt prayers was so moving. Thank you for going with me to India through the miracle of prayer.

The previous eight updates captured most of the challenges and rewards our leaders in South Asia face every day. They also communicated most of my strongest memories from our trip.

There is, however, one more special moment I want to share with you.

As the conference was winding down, an idea appeared in my mind. At first I tried to push it aside since it wasn't part of the carefully built agenda that characterizes our gatherings in South Asia. But when the idea sunk its nails into my frontal cortex, I decided the impulse was from the Holy Spirit and went for it.

I placed a chair in the middle of our 25 person circle and asked our Regional Director, Vallab Sathyabal, to have a seat. He gave me an uncomfortable look as if to say, "I don't know what you have planned for me, but this is not our way, Pastor Phil."

That was music to my ears!

Our Atlanta headquarters team knows how much I love creating spontaneous moments that move people beyond their comfort zones. In fact, they've coined a term for such awkward encounters. They call it being "Tuttled."

Apparently our staff's exaggerated descriptions of these glorious experiences had made their way to Sathyabal's ears halfway around the world!

I assured him these activities rarely prove fatal, and he reluctantly took his place.

The rules were simple. As the microphone moved around the circle, each person was to look Sathyabal in the eye and tell him what they appreciate most about his character and leadership.

It took several reminders to get our trainers to look at Sathyabal rather than me, and to switch their pronouns from "he" to "you." When they finally embraced the idea, their affirmations were far more powerful than I'd hoped. Here are a few sound bites I managed to capture.

"You are younger than me, but you've been my role model for many years."

"I appreciate that though you demand high accountability, you do so as a brother rather than a boss."

"I'm serving in a position of great influence and responsibility. There's no way I would be ready for my current role if you hadn't mentored me for the past ten years."

"I love you because you gave me a second chance. You were right to release me years ago when I fell far short of my goals two years in a row. But three years later when I pleaded with you to reinstate me, you took a risk and gave me a chance to make things right. I'll never forget that you gave me grace."

2015-02-09 image-2Every man and woman spoke truth into Sathyabal's weary spirit as he slowly rotated his chair around the circle. His tears flowed freely as did mine. And then we gathered around, laid our hands on his trembling shoulders, and prayed for his personal walk with God, his marriage, and his ministry. Hearing Sathyabal describe the experience to his wife, Anitha, over dinner cemented the power of that moment in all our minds.

Someone once said, "encouragement is the oxygen of the soul." Sathyabal and the rest of us got to experience that truth in the final moments of our conference.

In the middle of more than a billion people, I got to see and hear just how much impact one person can have if his life is fully committed to daily discipleship and the miracle of mentoring.

Our brothers and sisters in South Asia plan to impact 1.2 million people through Walk Thru the Bible live events in 2015. That number is absolutely attainable because Sathyabal has chosen to lead by serving. He's the kind of leader others won't hesitate to follow.

The kind of leader I hope to someday be. How about you?

Exponential Effect

Today's post comes from Mark Schaff, International Trainer

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Can you double an exponential effect?

One formula is clear.
Train a teacher – that's addition.
Train a trainer – that's multiplication.
Train a trainer of trainers – that's exponential explosion.

This is the mathematical explanation of how last year's 25 South Asian consultation team members touched 1,180,000 lives.

We introduced a new formula yesterday. The KNOW. FEEL. DO. formula. Rather than simply training the South Asian leaders in the content of Chosen, Phil spent the day training the men in how to prepare and apply a message for transformation not information.

Dissecting the lessons of Chosen as an example, Phil guided the team in developing applications for their teaching. Determine what you want your students to KNOW, FEEL and Do from each Bible lesson.

The men engaged with Phil, each other, and Chosen with incredible energy. Gone were the quiet listening and words of appreciation after a polite pause. There was talkative chaos, leaning forward in seats with immediate questions, ah ha's, and affirmations.

"Why haven't you taught us this before?!" was heard more than once.

I winced a bit at that comment. "Hey, we've been teaching application for years. It is our DNA!" I thought. But life change is a process. Just because you said something once does not mean people learn it. Then I got swept up in the joy of learning with everyone else. The time was ripe for the men to grasp this lesson – method – teaching goal. This is the second exponential track at this year's consultation.

Addition – it influences their teaching of Chosen.
Multiplication – it changes all their Walk Thru the Bible course teachings.
Exponential Impact – the skill transfers to all their teaching far beyond Walk Thru the Bible curriculum.

As the KNOW. FEEL. DO. formula gets passed through the first formula of the training of trainers, we may do much more than double our impact.

Celebrate the continual growth of our South Asia team!

- Mark Schaff, International Trainer

India Update #7

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(Today's update is from Mark Schaff, our International Trainer)

Hello,

The catalyst event for this whirlwind trip of preaching, teaching and training is up and running. The actual consultation has begun.

The various 'stats' are being tabulated:

  • 28 leaders
  • 15 languages
  • 4 countries

(It takes more than 3 minutes to sing the chorus of 'this is the day' in each language present).

For the 7th year in a row, the South Asia team has touched over a million lives with relevant Biblical messages. These messages ignite passion for God's Word and forge a group of men and women into a solid team that, to adapt a phrase, is 'taking a walk and changing the world.'

What impressed me today was the dynamics of the team. You would think the 27 hour train ride from Kolkata to Hyderabad would be a real drain. Physically, beyond a doubt. But the East / North East Zonal team arrived enthused.

Rarely seeing each other and spending a day+ together in a sleeping cabin is a rejuvenating reunion of fellowship. The larger team is separated by thousands of miles with major rivers and mountain ranges between them. This consultation is the one time they gather as group.

Between reports, they pray for one another - deep prayers of thanksgiving for deliverance from major car wrecks on the mountain roads of Punjab, healing of voices when one could not speak after traveling 200 miles to lead an event, protection from municipal governments that seek to disrupt and disperse church gatherings.

Years ago, gatherings like this were a time of friendly competition of reports and stories. Today, I saw a group of friends, deeply concerned for one another gathering around the Great Commission wanting their lives to count.

It has been fun watching Phil; without a translator he is 'cut free' to be more himself. The men are really connecting with him and soaking up CHOSEN. Today is Phil's birthday.

However corny, the picture that comes to mind is an old admiral commanding fleets of ships with all the vast responsibilities of the office, suddenly being allowed to jump on a small frigate. Zipping through the waves as a young captain with the sea spray and wind in his face. Phil is in full classic training mode. The skills and abilities that saw him rise to Dean of faculty, VP of International and President are still there and shining. Yea, he is a year older today. But the 'old guy' still has it.

OK, back to statistics. We have to make a new category for God's Grand Story. We currently count number of churches with live events, number of small groups, people attending, etc...but we did not think to add New Churches Started.

At least two small groups in South India gathered to study God's Grand Story. After hearing the messages and meeting for six weeks of study and devotions, they decided to continue meeting around God's Word. And 'bang,' a new church blooms and a local Walk Thru instructor begins nourishing a new leader with more life change material.

Thank you for your prayers. We feel them daily.

- Mark

P.S. Happy Birthday Mr. President!

What Would You Do?

India Update #6

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So . . . If you had a vacant floor in your four-story office flat, what would you do with it?

That's the decision that confronted our South Asia Regional Director, Vallab Sathyabal, and his wife, Anitha.

Most Americans would simply use it as extra storage space and fill it up with soon-forgotten boxes. The entrepreneurs among us would recognize the income potential, and look for a renter immediately.

2015-01-14 image-2But Sathyabal and Anitha had a better idea. A much better idea.

They reconfigured the space, hired a family to move in as house parents, and provided a priceless opportunity to five heartbroken boys.

All five are the sons of fathers who died of AIDS. Their mothers have also tested positive for the dreaded disease.

Here in Hyderabad India, that means these boys have no hope for a positive future. They'll likely be orphaned within years. And they have little or no shot at a quality education or a rewarding career.

But Sathyabal and Anitha changed all that.

Here's how it works. The boys stay in town during the week and attend high quality, college prep schools. Their meals and lodging are all provided, along with love and biblical nurture from their house parents and their two great kids. All these costs plus school tuition are fully funded by Sathyabal and Anitha, along with six other families here in India.

The boys spend weekends and holidays at home with their moms. While it's far from perfect, this opportunity is life changing on every level.

2015-01-14 image-3We got to hang out with three of the boys and hear their stories a few days ago. They didn't seem to mind coming home from school a few hours early to meet us!

In spite of the heartbreak these boys have experienced, their faces radiate joy. They're growing in their love for Christ and knowledge of His Word. And they now have a future worth dreaming about.

While none of this is officially part of Walk Thru the Bible, I thought you should hear what our leaders have chosen to do with their spare time and resources -- neither of which they have a lot of.

Sathyabal and Anitha are amazing examples of what it looks like when we live life full out for Christ. Not the sanitized version of our faith that huddles in comfortable church buildings, but the messy kind that takes Christ's love to those who need it the most.

I'm inspired and convicted by Sathyabal and Anitha. We've been serving together since 1992. I didn't think it was possible for me to love and respect them any more. But I was wrong.

-Phil

India Update #5

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It happens everywhere we go.

My wife connects deeply with random people in record time.

Though I've watched it over and over, I still can't explain how she does it. I've tried to analyze the process, but it's too spontaneous to recreate in the lab of my mind.

It's already happened several times on this trip. And it happened again today at the church where I preached.

Women of all ages welcomed her into their hearts. The twenty-somethings swapped email addresses and Facebook friend requests. The middle aged women asked to see pictures of our kids. And the senior saints just wanted to sit next to her and pat her hands and smile with their eyes.

They always end up sharing their stories. Mostly Ellen asks them questions and consistently shifts the focus away from herself.

But somewhere there's a connection that bridges cultures, languages, politics, and generations.

In the small town where we pastored our first church, they used to call her Ellie Mae after the Clampett's beautiful daughter on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Here in India they're much too formal for that, opting instead for "Madam President" -- a reminder of the lingering formality left behind by the British.

It doesn't matter what name they use. In their hearts they always call her "friend."

I'm so thankful that after years of traveling by myself, Ellen is now sometimes able to come along. I always teach better when she's with me, and everything I share seems to have greater credibility.

But even more than that, she has her own personal ministry. She rarely stands in front of a microphone. But her quiet authenticity speaks unforgettable truth whether she uses words, plays translation charades, or just takes the time to look into another woman's eyes as if to say, "I value you, and so does Jesus."

-Phil

India Update #4

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Hello friends,

Thank you for praying today. The Chosen teaching event was well received and a blessing to all who came. There were several pastors with large groups from their congregations and a few priests did attend, so that was an answer to prayer. The Equipper for our team in this area felt they embraced the teaching. We'll find out more about this when Thomas does the follow up with them.

All the generations were represented. Many older folks with well worn Bibles were there, as well as dozens of school children, middle and high school age, many girls the age of Mary! It was impressive that they came on a Saturday, especially since they are still on winter break.

It was a nice surprise when two groups of young adults from the U.S. and Australia who are on YWAM's (Youth With a Mission) DTS (Disciple Training School) program joined us. They're spending their missions outreach months in India, Nepal, and Australia. One of the girls just graduated from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga., just a few miles from our home!

With such a diverse audience, Phil had a challenging day. The translator, a professor from a local Bible college, really captured the message and purpose of the course and did a great job, another answer to prayer!

2015-01-11 image-2At the end of the day, a pastor came up and grabbed Phil's hands and said, "Thank you! I never knew that Mary had so much to teach me!"

Please continue to pray for us.

Phil, Chris Tiegreen, and Mark Schaaf are all preaching at different churches tomorrow around the city. Then on Monday, we head back to Hyderabad for our South Asia Regional Consultation with our 25 leaders from across India as well as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

It may be a couple of days until you hear from us again.

Thank you for the prayers!

Ellen

India Update #3

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Hi everyone! It's Ellen Tuttle in Calcutta (known as Kolkata in India), the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Thank you so much for following our journey and praying for us! Your prayers are essential for the success of this ministry trip.

We're testing our new course called Chosen, on the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This will be its first international teaching.

Christianity is India's third largest religion with approximately 24 million followers, constituting 2.3% of India's population, comprised of Protestants and Catholics. Even though these two groups have theological differences, they're both distinct minorities, and they're hoping to unite when they have opportunity. This course on Mary would seem to be one such opportunity.

Please be in prayer for Phil. There are a number of priests from the local Catholic diocese coming. Our World Teach National Director, Rev. Sathyabal sent them a preview of the material in their Bengali language. Their first feedback is positive, and they are coming to the teaching of Chosen tomorrow. Praise God.

Prayer requests:2015-01-09 image-2

  • Pray that tomorrow will build bridges, not walls--for connections without compromise.
     
  • Pray that Phil and his interpreter work well together so the message is presented accurately and winsomely. There have been times when interpreters were excited about preaching their own message rather than what Phil is teaching!
     
  • Pray for every single person to be touched deeply by the Spirit through the Word.
     
  • Pray for health and endurance! The air pollution in Calcutta is strong, so our eyes and throats are burning.

As you are reading this on Friday night, it will be Saturday morning here, and Phil will be starting to teach. So before you fall asleep, pray intentionally for these requests. We really appreciate it and we know that your prayers are what releases God's power to bring real change and growth in the hearts of these people.

We'll let you know how God is answering your prayers soon!

Ellen

Greetings From India

2015-01-08 image-1This picture captures one of the most beautiful sights in the whole world.

After two long flights, a tense encounter with an overly zealous Indian immigration official, and a few anxious moments as my bag was one of the last ones down the carousel, we finally walked out the secure door into the chaotic waiting area that screams, "Welcome to Hyderabad! You're not in Atlanta anymore, Dorothy!"

As I scanned the amazingly diverse crowd, I heard Ellen shout, "There he is!" Right at the same instant my eyes and Sathyabal's eyes connected. His grin spread across his face as we moved to hug each other. Not some polite cross-culturally-sensitive hug, but a sincere embrace shared by two brothers who have grown up as leaders together.

And there was our old friend, Samson, ready to welcome us with beautiful flowers. Ellen isn't just viewed as my wife here, she is loved and respected as "Madam President" -- a title she has never encouraged nor fully embraced!

It's been a day since that scene unfolded, but my mind has already replayed it several times during more than a few interruptions in my first night of sleep.

Greetings like that are precious. And we are blessed to be welcomed that way all over the world. The global network of Walk Thru the Bible is amazing, and it should never be taken for granted.

When William Carey came to India in 1793 I doubt he received such a welcome. And centuries before that, the Apostle Thomas risked his life when he brought the gospel here.

Even today, there are thousands who cross oceans, languages, and cultures to build bridges to unreached people groups. Our ministry builds on the foundations these faithful pioneers establish.

And so, it's good as we celebrate Sathyabal's warm embrace, to pause and remember those who are willing to journey where nobody is waiting for them. There are no hugs. No flowers.

Today there are still 4,000 languages that don't have the Bible. And 3,100 people groups without any Gospel witness.

God's heart is that every person come to know Him. And our calling is to create encounters with the truth that make that possible.

Some plant, some cultivate, some water, but only God makes things grow and brings the harvest.

And after the harvest arrives, the hugs soon follow. Especially between those who never forget that somebody took a risk to bring them the life changing news of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection.

And that's true whether they're from Hyderabad, India or Normal, Illinois.

On The Way To India!

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A couple months ago, I sent you and a small group of friends and partners a series of real-time reports and prayer requests during my trip to the Philippines.

Your response was amazing! Our team and I were blown away by the number of email responses and the level of your engagement. I could actually feel your encouragement, and I believe the fruitfulness of that trip was a direct result of your prayers.

Therefore, I have decided to send a similar series of reports each time I head out to teach and train.

Which brings us to right now!

As you're reading this, Ellen and I are somewhere in the air on our way to India along with teammates Chris Tiegreen and Mark Schaaf.

We are flying out about 10:00 pm Monday, Atlanta time, and will land in Hyderabad about 24 hours later after a six hour layover in Dubai.

We'll help Sathyabal, our Regional Director, lead the South Asia consultation in Hyderabad with his Equippers from across India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

These 20 men and women will then spend the next year training thousands of pastors and leaders to teach our materials to well over a million people.

I'll be testing Chosen, our new course on Mary, with this group and gathering important feedback. Plus, I'll present this new material at public events in Kolkataand Hyderabad.

Ellen will be addressing a group of pastors' wives, and Mark and Chris will be speaking in key churches. We'll also be collecting reports on the launch of God's Grand Story and setting goals for the next year.

Our team will get back to Atlanta on Saturday, January 17.

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Please pray for us daily, as India is always a challenging trip.

The flights are long.
The food is intense.
The traffic is insane.
The noise is constant.
The poverty is heartbreaking.
The ministry opportunities are glorious.
The spiritual hunger is palpable.
The gratitude is humbling.
And our leaders there are fantastic!

Thank you so much for traveling with us through the miracle of prayer. And please take a couple minutes to send an encouraging response or two during the next ten days. And now it's time for takeoff!

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